Americana, from its star-spangled iconography to, occasionally, its sickly nostalgia, is the breeding ground for Ed Ruscha’s thinking and output across his decades of work: iconic Ruscha compositions depict roadside gas stations, Hollywood signs, and California slang. In this group of new and recent photorealistic acrylic paintings, objects and features of mountainous terrains float, surreally, over simple backdrops.
Tire treads (“gators,” Ruscha calls them) appear frayed and burnt, leaving hot red streaks across the canvas. Hardscrabble (2020) [pictured]—as accurate a moniker as any for the hardworking, self-made man, that nationally revered trope—reveals an arid, almost lunar landscape beneath a scorched sky.
In another room, the American flag, that symbol both potent and anodyne, takes center stage. It ripples in the wind, uncannily, unceasingly, continuing far past its ordinary dimensions, past the edge of the canvas, like the tread of tires that squeal to a brake but continue to slide—pioneering, perhaps, but to what ends?
Ed Ruscha, Hardscrabble, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 32 x 48 inches. © Ed Ruscha, courtesy Gagosian. Photo: Paul Ruscha.